Just like clockwork

Flashback to the days when this programmer pilot fish is working on system software for a large vendor that makes large computers -- and one of the thorniest problems is knowing what time it is.

"At the time, the system time-of-day clock was actually a calculation," says fish. "It was the date and time when the system was initialized, plus the time that the machine had been running.

"Since every system initialized slightly differently, this code was rewritten every time we built a new system. For about three systems in a row, the time-running variable was defined as an integer instead of a real.

"We would go through months of debugging in-house and customer testing, then declare victory and ship the system.

"And then 30 days later, just like clockwork, the system would crash for customers as the time-running integer variable overflowed, the system clock jumped backwards, and the operating system failed.

"At least we had 30 more days to get the fix out..."

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